Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community

Walt gives advice to some Nisei – Mary Woodward (OH0085)


There was a group of young Nisei… now most of the Nisei were in their twenties if that. Some of the older Nisei were in their twenties, I think. Sam Nakao was the oldest at 28. Most of the Nisei were in high school, or younger. There was a group of young men who when… the FBI did come in February and removed a number of the Issei who had been prominent in the community and took them out of the state.

Most of them went to Missoula where they were interned for, some of them, for a lengthy period of time. But they were aliens, they were not citizens, and that was a legal process. As much as it might be disparaged, it was a legal process. That left the Nisei, the inexperienced Nisei who had always looked to their fathers for direction and for wisdom. They knew that it was falling on their shoulders to weather whatever was coming and they of course had heard the rumors and knew people were talking about removing everyone. At that time they felt that probably it would be the Issei who would be forced to move, but certainly not the citizens. And they came to The Review one day to talk with my father about, “What do we do? How do we act, now? What can we do to help our community?” He said, well, “You gotta stop the Japanese language schools because people just don’t understand that.” And they went, “Great. We hated those anyway.

Nobody learned anything, and got in the way of sports.” So that was not a problem for them. But then he said, “Some of you are gonna have to join the Army and you’re gonna have to get shot at.” Then, if that happens, the wider population, who don’t know you, don’t understand you, will see that you are indeed loyal and you are supporting your nation. That wasn’t a topic of laughter. They realized that that probably was what they would have to do. I don’t know that my father was saying that that was the ideal thing that they had to do, but he was looking at the broader picture of how… what’s gonna happen after the war with the greater community on the West Coast and what kinds of things can be done so that there’s gonna be an integration after that, a smoother transition.

Video Interview — August, 2007

Mary Woodward

Mary Woodward Pratt is the youngest daughter of Walt and Milly Woodward, owners of the Bainbridge Review during World War Two. The Review was the only newspaper to use its editorials to consistently speak out against the exclusion and internment of Japanese Americans. In 2008 Mary authored the book In Defense of our Neighbors, which records how the Review helped create an environment that was friendly to those who, like the editors, strongly opposed the exclusion.